Rocket Gibraltar
directed by Daniel Petrie
(Columbia Pictures, 1988)

I should say up front that Rocket Gibraltar is one of my favorite movies of all time. The ending sequence and overall theme stayed with me from the first time I saw the movie in the early '90s to when I recently re-watched it.

Rocket Gibraltar is the name of a derelict sailboat that a group of children lovingly restore as a birthday present for their grandfather, Levi Rockwell (Burt Lancaster). It's not an ordinary project: Levi told the kids about Viking funerals and his desire to have one.

Meanwhile, Levi's children and their spouses are planning a huge birthday party for him and dealing with their own frustrations about growing old.

The cast is excellent and contains many surprises -- Bill Pullman as an aging pitcher and Kevin Spacey as a struggling stand-up comedian are two of Eli's son-in-laws. But it is Macaulay Culkin as Levi's youngest grandson who stands out.

Rocket Gibraltar was Culkin's first movie and it makes you understand the hype that surrounded the actor in his early years and wonder what happened to that promise. His scenes with Lancaster draw you in, and you believe they must be related. And Culkin's innocent acceptance of death as something other than loss brought tears to my eyes.

Set in New England, Rocket Gibraltar takes you into the end of summer and the end of a life through visuals that let you feel the cooling temperatures and the inevitable changing of the leaves. It's a film to be savored and shared with as many people as possible.

[ by Tammy Dotts ]

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